Don't make Irish people of faith into pariahs, says Taoiseach
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has launched a defence of religion's place in Irish society, attacking those who want to "turn religious people into pariahs".
A day after Pope Francis confirmed details of a 36-hour visit to Ireland, Mr Varadkar hit out at socialist politicians for trying to "push religion out of the public space".
Responding to questions from Solidarity TD Mick Barry, the Taoiseach said he believes in the separation of church and state.
But he added: "When we speak about church and state, and while we should always acknowledge the many wrongs done by church bodies in the past - people will know what they are - we should not forget that many religious-based charities and many religious bodies do very good and valuable work today."
Mr Barry had queried whether hospitals with a religious ethos would be obliged to carry out abortions under legislation which the government is planning.
Mr Varadkar responded that all hospitals would be expected to operate under the laws of the state.
The Taoiseach said the legislation would allow for terminations in extreme medical circumstances, and allow individual medics to opt out.
"It will not, however, be possible for publicly funded hospitals, no matter who their patron or owner is, to opt out of providing these necessary services which will be legal in this state once this legislation is passed by the Dail and Seanad," he added.
"I'm happy to give you that assurance."
But he went on to claim that parties like the Socialist Party or Solidarity-People Before Profit want to stop funding bodies such as Crosscare and the Society of St Vincent de Paul. He added: "The policy of socialists is to take away that funding because they do not just believe in the separation of church and state; they want to turn religious people into pariahs, put them in a corner and hide them and take away funding from institutions."